The US and the EU have agreed to open to the public upcoming meetings at the WTO that will probe their 12-year diplomatic battle over the banana trade.

A WTO disputes panel will look into the row in meetings on 6-7 November. The US has long pushed for greater openness in WTO disputes proceedings, which are almost always held in secret.

Washington - backed by Latin American producers closely linked to US firms - claims the EU offers unfair access to Caribbean and African banana producers.

The dispute is a high-profile one, and Geneva diplomats believe political value can be gained by Brussels and Washington displaying concern for their respective banana industry supporters.

One US firm that has been affected by the EU's import tariffs on Latin American bananas is Chiquita Brands International.

Chiquita today (29 October) announced a restructuring of its business to boost margins after seeing profits hit by, among other things, the EU's "punitive" tariff regime.

A spokesman for Chiquita said the company would support any moves to cut EU taxes on produce from Latin America.

"We believe that the tariffs that the European Commission imposes on Latin American bananas is unfair and punitive," the spokesman told just-food. "We've been supportive of the Latin American producers and we would support any near-term reduction of tariff rates."